Politics vs. Reality in Middle America
Sorry for the serious lack of posting. I just couldn’t make myself give a damn about politics and other bullshit.
I should care. I should care about the failures of the Democrats, the obstructions, hatred, and nonsensical positions of the Republicans, the complete and utter lack of caring about the poor and the weak and the needy.
I should be posting three and four times a day, ranting and raving.
But the truth is … I’m tired. I’m just tired and overwhelmed with outrage fatigue, and – quite honestly – depressed. Children die because bureaucrats in an insurance company, safely removed from the consequences of their decisions, decide they aren’t worth saving. Aren’t worth attempting to save.
People are going hungry, going without heat, going without necessities like expensive prescription drugs, struggling to hold on to their homes in a still-collapsing housing market and a tightening rental market, working two or three jobs to provide the basics of food and shelter and clothing and heat – in the so-called “richest nation on earth.”
Where’s the hope? Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?
Presidential candidates, with the exception of John Edwards, act as though simply telling people to buy insurance, or giving them tax credits to purchase insurance is going to help. No. It’s. Not.
Presidential candidates who say more war, more detentions, more torture – and mean it!
Presidential candidates who talk about suffering and despair in America, but who – with rare exception – have never, ever suffered or despaired in their entire, silver-spooned lives. Never had to wonder how they would pay for their medication, how they would pay the electric bill, how they would feed their family.
Politicians of both stripes fill the halls of Congress, and, as far as I can tell, the only lives improving as a result of the Democratic wins last year, are the politicians on both sides of the aisle and their lobbyists.
It’s not American children. It’s not American families. It’s not American workers. It’s not American students.
It sure as hell isn’t America’s poor.
Makes me wish we had a real President like the fictional Jedidiah Bartlet. I loved watching The West Wing, and missing it was right near the top of my regrets after I cut the cable addiction.
There was an episode – 20 Hours in America – that hit home then, and even more so today:
Toby, Josh, and Donna are left behind when the President’s motorcade leaves, and have to make their own way back to DC from Indiana. Toby and Josh are being your typical Beltway idiots, and — after a day spent listening to the concerns of the people they meet, and hearing of a bombing on a college campus — Donna gives them a verbal slap upside the head:
Donna: I am not kidding. I have such an impulse to knock your heads together. I can’t remember the last time I heard you two talk about anything other than how a campaign was playing in Washington. Cathy needed to take a second job so her dad could be covered by her insurance. She tried to tell you how bad things were for family farmers. You told her we already lost Indiana. You made fun of the fair but you didn’t see they have livestock exhibitions and give prizes for the biggest tomato and the best heirloom apple. They’re proud of what they grow. Eight modes of transportation, the kindness of six strangers, random conversations with twelve more, and nobody brought up Bartlet versus Ritchie but you. I’m writing letters on your behalf to the parents of the kids who were killed today. Can I have the table, please?
That’s how I feel. We’re talking to these candidates, to the politicians on Capitol Hill, and they don’t care. They’re… maybe they aren’t laughing at us, but they sure are ignoring us. Millions and millions of hard-working Americans — and immigrants, legal and illegal — who sweat and toil, who come home with dirt under their nails, who are the vital cogs who keep the machinery of business going, and who are struggling, and we’re ignored.
Pundits who’ve never met a cocktail weenie they didn’t like, tell us what they think the candidates stand for – and are usually wrong – and never bother to listen to Americans outside their little bubble.
Do I care about Hillary Clinton’s marital woes, or John Edwards’ haircuts, or Rudy Guiliani’s adulterous affairs, or Mitt Romney’s immovable hair, or Fred Thompson’s wife? No.
I want to know where they stand. I want to know how – exactly – they intend to help real working Americans. I want to know how they’re going to make medical care and prescription medications affordable. I want to know when and how they’re going to bring our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and how they intend to clean up the mess. How are they going to relate to our allies and how they’re going to deal with our enemies?
How are they going to provide for our wounded troops and our veterans of all ages? How are they going to improve our schools and give our children the tools they need to compete with China and India? How are they going to provide jobs that give families a real chance at improving their lives? How are they going to improve government to make it work for the people? How are they going to care for our elderly? How are they going to cut our dependence on foreign oil? How are they going to confront the climate crisis? How will they protect the Constitution and the liberties enshrined therein? How will they confront terrorism?
I want to know how they intend to fix this economy that’s only working for the rich and the well-to-do.
Because we’re drowning down here in the lower- and middle-income tax brackets. We’re drowning under the weight of mortgages and rent payments, utility bills and insurance premiums and prescription drug costs that keep going up even as our incomes are stagnating – or for the really unlucky amongst us, as our jobs vanish and new ones pay too little to support a family, or simply never appear.
I have a son who will graduate from high school in June. He wants to become a Pennsylvania state trooper. To send him to a local four-year, state-affiliated university will cost about $18,000 a year. Cheap compared to Princeton or Harvard or Yale, but not cheap to us. We, his parents, cannot afford it, so my son will have to go into debt – to the tune of around $65,000 – by his 23rd birthday, in order to follow his dream.
Another son, almost 21 years old, still lives at home because he can’t afford to move out on his own. He works a full-time, 40-hours-a-week job, and he cannot afford an apartment or the expenses that come with it.
Just a little later in that same episode of the West Wing, Josh and Toby meet a man whose flight home was also delayed. He and his daughter have just come from a tour of Notre Dame, and he talks about sending his daughter to college:
I never imagined at $55,000 a year, I’d have trouble making ends meet. And my wife brings in another 25. My son’s in public school. It’s no good. I mean, there’s 37 kids in the class, uh, no art and music, no advanced placement classes. Other kids, their mother has to make them practice the piano. You can’t pull my son away from the piano. He needs teachers.
I spend half the day thinking about what happens if I slip and fall down on my own front porch, you know? It should be hard. I like that it’s hard. Putting your daughter through college, that’s-that’s a man’s job. A man’s accomplishment. But it should be a little easier. ‘Cause in that difference is… everything.
It is good to work for what you and your family need. But it shouldn’t be this hard for so many, living in the “richest nation on earth.” We should not have to struggle so fiercely only to find it provides so damned little.
Getting ahead has become a pipe dream. I’d settle for breaking even.
So, in the words of fictional character Toby Zeigler, here’s my message to the candidates:
If our job teaches us anything, it’s that we don’t know what the next President’s gonna face. And if we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas, who’s connected to other people’s lives, and cares about making them better… if we choose someone to inspire us, then we’ll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things… we can’t imagine yet. Instead of telling people who’s the most qualified, instead of telling people who’s got the better ideas, let’s make it obvious. […]